Director, Penn Alumni Interview Program
University of Pennsylvania
Co-Leader of the Alumni Representatives SIG
What drew you to the world of college admission?
A happy accident! My wife and I were working as International Baccalaureate (IB) English teachers at a small high school outside of Istanbul, and a few of our students were eager to study in the United States. After four years of pro bono counseling for them, we moved back to the US, and I started working at the Penn Undergraduate Admissions Office. Through that effort, I began to see how powerful the alumni interview could be as one component of a more democratized college admission process—not only for students and selection committees, but also as a means of motivating alumni volunteers.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I’ve been in my current role at Penn for the past eight years. It’s somewhat unusual, in that our office (and our 25,000 alumni interviewers) serves the admission office, but is managed and funded through our alumni relations budget. I absolutely love that—having a job that bridges so many different departments and groups of people (students, admission officers, Penn staff, and our phenomenal volunteers). I like the idea that this role is about facilitating positive conversations between intelligent people who don’t yet know one another: There’s a lot of good in that, and it gives me hope while keeping me energized.
How did you get involved with the Alumni Representatives SIG?
Josh Levy from Oberlin College (OH) was passing through Philadelphia, and had apparently heard that I was always eager to speak with colleagues at peer institutions about alumni volunteer management. He may have gotten more than he bargained for in terms of a discussion partner—he invited me to serve as SIG co-chair, which has proven to be a great collaboration.
Why is this SIG important to you?
Anyone who works in this niche field (managing alumni volunteers to support complex/crucial admission activities) knows how difficult it is to do the job well. There are only a few hundred of us in the world, and whenever there’s a transition in a given office, the new person either inherits a sprawling and imperfect program, or else they essentially have to start from scratch. The only two ways you learn are by making mistakes or by listening to other people who’ve made them. The SIG creates a conversational space to share stories and best practices from hard-won experience.
Why should counselors and admission professionals get involved with a NACAC SIG?
Alumni volunteer programs are messy beasts, but when conceived of correctly, they represent a four-way win for an institution: 1) Students gain the opportunity to advocate for themselves on an equal playing field, 2) Admission offices receive valuable first-hand information about their prospects and see increased interest from admits, 3) Alumni have the chance to connect with one another in a form of service that genuinely benefits their alma mater, while allowing them to recollect their college experience and re-engage with the institution, and 4) Colleges and universities stoke alumni enthusiasm while developing a global cohort of institutional ambassadors. The SIG represents one of the largest communities of people trying to build out these programs for the benefit of each institution—there isn’t much to be competitive about, and most people understand exactly how difficult the job can be with limited time, resources, and models to work from.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
Ensuring that our humanity keeps pace with our technology.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I have a toddler at home, so I mostly just enjoy his endless delight in the world around him. When he’s napping, I like to garden, sculpt, and engage in overly ambitious home improvement projects.
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
That’s a wonderful question. I like characters who are swept away on adventures that outpace their expectations and abilities: Frodo from Lord of the Rings, Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse-Five, Princess Leigh-Cherie from Still Life with Woodpecker. Maybe Piglet, who’s similarly a plaything of enormous forces, but still wakes up each morning asking, “I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?"
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